271. The Amsterdam Zoo

It’s literally a pile of cute

We’d heard the Amsterdam zoo was good, but how many zoos do you have to see in your life? Especially when you have seen The Cove, or you think too hard about what the animals are missing out on by being in captivity… Nonetheless, we pushed our ethical concerns to the backs of our minds and went for a wander, and I must say, we most definitely were not let down!

The Amsterdam zoo was actually quite the elaborate masterpiece. Housing an aquarium, planetarium, a butterfly room and beautiful sculptures all throughout the area, it really was quite a great site.

I made great strides in confronting my irrational fear of things with wings – I didn’t go running out of the butterfly room after being dive bombed by an enormous moth, and I didn’t panic at all the random, abnormally fierce peacocks strutting around and just waiting to pick a fight with visitors.

The absolute highlight though, that really put it above any other zoo, was the whimsical, magical room overrun with all kinds of wild animals and plants, like a scene out of a movie. The room was like a part of an old train station or something – huge brick arches, but completely overgrown with plants. When you entered (it was a one way door), there were birds flying round, monkeys darting out and almost running over your feet, huge green lizards crawling up the walls, brilliantly colourful flowers of all varieties and bats. So many bats. It’s like the place was just made to show you your imagination wasn’t good enough, and needed to step it up! It definitely felt surreal, like I was in a movie as I walked through. It reminded me of scenes from an old Batman film with Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy. I did get a bit stuck at one point, when an enormous bird decided to block the entrance, and I was too scared to get close to it…

All in all, an excellent excursion, and I’d be surprised if there was another zoo that could beat that one!

Oh and did I mention the casual Astronaut, just chillin’

73. Swedish Museum of Natural History

No shortage of stuffed animals here

The Naturhistoriska Riksmuseet in Stockholm came highly recommended, although it is a (quite expensive) subway ride out of the centre of the city. You’ll find it on the grounds of Stockholm University, which are also quite nice to have a wander around. We made the mistake of heading there on a Monday and not actually checking the opening hours. Turns out many museums in Scandinavia aren’t open on Mondays, so it is definitely advisable to check the hours before you go.

On attempt number two, it was quite interesting to explore yet another magnificent Stockholm building. Unfortunately, being the off-season, what was probably the best exhibit was closed for repairs/maintenance/whatever the museum terminology is. The exhibit in question is the famous one where you walk through a giant human body. I could see the top of his head above the door but alas! Other than that there was what could have been a quite interesting exhibit on Climate Change had it had more translations, and a tonne of stuffed animals. (As you can see I’m giving the exhibits my own super creative English names). The human evolution exhibit and giant whale skeletons were pretty good, and the highlight of the open exhibits was probably the animals-on-record covers one – a collection of old record covers that feature animals in the art. There was a fairly novel duke box too, very much in theme. I played myself Fleetwood Mac’s “The Albatross” as I perused the collection.

My favourite part was the following elephant skeleton, largely because of his accompanying hilarious story:

This poor elephant was shot in South Africa in 1844 by engineer and scientific explorer Johan August Wahlberg (not the funny bit) who gathered large collections for the museum on his own initiative (i.e. that justified his hunting). He financed these expeditions with elephant hunting, by selling ivory as well as financial support from the Museum and the Royal Academy. In 1856 Wahlberg was trampled to death by a wounded elephant. Serves him bloody right!

All in all I found it quite overrated, but if I’d paid extra (it was already fairly expensive at about $15 to get in) for the 3D Imax cinema, or the human body exhibit had been open I think my experience may have been quite different. Lesson learned – do the research, especially with expensive museums in the off season.

Lucy! The evolution nerd in me got a little excited

Excessive amount of dead birds, in my opinion... I really felt the point could have been made with just killing off the one bird

Cool interactive steam generating... thing

Look at him! Taunting me... The bastard.

Serious babes.

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